French riots spark Arab introspection

The violence sweeping France's impoverished suburbs has triggered criticism from the Arab media over a failure to integrate immigrants.

    The unrest has entered a 12th consecutive night

    It has also raised fears that the riots' consequences could spread across the Arab-Muslim world.

    Pictures of burning cars and ransacked shops were splashed across the front pages of Arab newspapers while television networks have mobilised to cover what one daily called the "civil war" and another the "uprising".

    While condemning the spread of violence by French youths - mostly among the country's immigrant Muslim and Arab communities - the Arab media has mainly blamed riots on longstanding social malaise, unemployment and alienation.

    Many Arab newspapers also feared that the "French fire", or the nightly rioting that began on 27 October, was threatening to "spread" across Europe, noting incidents in Belgium and Germany which also have large Arab and Muslim immigrant communities.


    Satellite television networks such as Aljazeera and Al-Arabiya are offering in-depth coverage of the unrest.

    Most protesters are the children
    of African or Arab immigrants

    Al-Arabiya has dispatched reinforcement crews who are carrying out, day and night, live coverage of the events, with features on the suburbs as well as interviews with residents and community leaders.

    "We have been giving this issue utmost importance, and it has remained the number one or number two item in the news bulletins," Al-Arabiya spokesman Jihad Ballout said.

    "We do not take any stand. We do not subscribe to what some people say, that violence is justified because the immigrants have problems or the contrary. We only offer the chance to all sides to voice their opinion, including the French authorities and all community leaders," he said.


    In Lebanon, the An Nahar newspaper said: "What is happening in France today shows the flagrant failure of the integration of immigrants.

    "While it may be normal to give priority to security (concerns), the remedy to this situation cannot be limited to just that... as the causes of this absence of integration should be tackled," it said. 


    Yusuf al-Qaradawi calls on France
    to start  a dialogue with Muslims  

    Under the headline: "And first there was negligence," the As Safir daily in Beirut said: "The French model needs reforms... just as other European models do, from Britain to The Netherlands... at a time when immigration pressure remains high at the doors of Europe."

    Wrongful reactions

    Qatar's Al-Sharq newspaper said: "There may have been wrongful reactions by the immigrants ... in attempting to obtain some of their rights, but the problem is (based) on long-standing cultural and human" disparities.

    An editorial by the Khaleej Times in the United Arab Emirates said: "The immigrants may have a grievance or two, but should they go to this length and disrupt life this way?

    "France has all along helped the millions of immigrants there to live their lives with dignity... for a mistake or two, no one must punish a country like this," it said.

    A leading Muslim cleric based in Qatar, Shaikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, insisted on Monday that France was a friend and called on Muslim communities in the country ripped by urban violence to be "calm and reasonable".


    "But unfortunately these are the voices of a community that has no voice on the political scene"

    Abdel Rahman Rashed,
    Asharq Al-Awsat

    Al-Qaradawi, who hosts a popular show on Aljazeera, also called on French authorities to go beyond restoring security and start dialogue with Muslim community leaders to deal with the roots of the trouble.

    "In their behaviour, they surely seem like savages, as is usually the case in revolutions," said an editorial in Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper written by Al-Arabiya television director-general Abdel Rahman al-Rashed.

    "But unfortunately these are the voices of a community that has no voice on the political scene," explained al-Rashed, also the daily's former editor-in-chief.



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